Thursday, 31 May 2012

Having a bit of a break.

I wont be posting any Island Point dramas for 3 weeks as we are going away for a holiday.  Not the time I would have picked, being in the middle of our harvest season, but when you are invited to go to France, what do you say? When I get back, we will be having our first trial of a contract harvester, using a tree shaker, so that should be exciting, and I will give you a ball by ball description.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

And now let me show you pictures of the pressing

The fruit is tipped into this machine, which is called a DLE or deleafer. Leaves are blown into the white bag, and the fruit falls into a lower section full of water, where it is washed.  It is augered from here up into the hopper of the press.

This shows the top of the DLE auger.  It spits the fruit into the press hoppper.  It has to be closely watched in case it overloads it.  Although the machine is supposed to be automatic, it is a sensitive little thing, and works better if operated manually.

After the press is fully loaded, and the fruit has been pulverised by the hammer mill, it is mixed for about 40 minutes until you see the oil starting to accumulate on the surface.  Then you start extraction.  The paste is pumped through to the centrifuge and startes to separate into oil and waste.  Here is the oil coming out.  Not much, because I chose to have a smaller flow of cleaner oil, over a thick flow of dirty oil.  And these fruit, Arbequina, are not very high yielding in any case.

Here is the waste product coming out.  It looks like it should be edible and I believe in Europe it is turned into stock food with the addition of molasses and other ingredients.  It can be made into compost also, by adding hay and manure.  All we do with it is tip it around plants to keep weeds down, and to stop the sand blowing away.  Eventually it breaks down and I hope contributes to organic material in the soil.

Monday, 28 May 2012

How we harvest

This heavily laden little Arbequina is probably carrying 40 kilos of fruit

Deploying the catching net.  The fruit drops into the net and rolls into crates underneath the frame

Raking off the fruit.  We also have an electric and a compressed air harvester, but no one really likes using them because they get heavy and tiring on the back and arms

This is about 16 kilos of beautiful rosy Arbequina fruit in a crate on the back of the ute.  Arbequina is a spanish variety which produces a fairly mild, sweet oil.

Weighing the crates.  We aim to pick about 250 kilos maximum a day, as this is about all the press (and the operator!) can manage.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Abequina pick and press...

Oh I am really knackered.  That is not polite language I suppose...  But over the past two weeks or so I have been  chained to the press while the dear, hard working  rellies from Canberra have been picking for us.  I have some photos to put up, and after a good nights sleep will fill you in on what we have been doing.  Over 2 tonnes of fruit and a sodding series of press break downs ...   I'll tell all when I am more awake.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Second pick and press

Last Thursday I went down to the grove for another trial pick and press.  The only helper this time was Tania, who lives locally and helps out on a casual basis.  She is only a tiny thing, but really strong and really energetic, so thanks mostly to her we picked nearly 80 kilos of Mission (a mix of green, turning, and ripe) in about 2 1/2 hours. The electric harvester which had lost a 'finger' last week I had 'repaired' with a wall plug and a screw.  It held together for about two minutes, so it is back to the drawing board to find better repair techniques.  Maybe just a bigger plug and screw? Fortunately it seemed to work just as well with only 4 fingers.  In the afternoon I put the fruit through the press.  This time I hitched up the de leafer, which blows the leaves out and washes the fruit before auguring it up to the press.  I have to watch it closely so it doesn't put too much fruit into the hopper, because then the hammer mill jams and it is a very annoying and time consuming process unjamming it - involving taking all the fruit out of the hopper, opening the press, undoing the hammer mill assembly and thrusting a scraper betweeen two plates to clear the bit of pit or whatever is doing the blocking.  I am getting quicker at it and can clear it in about 10 minutes, but I'd rather not have to. The pleasing thing about this pressing was that we got nearly 20% yield of oil, which isn't bad, and the oil was nicer than last weeks.  I'm not sure if that was because it was a different combination of levels of ripeness, or of using the de leafer so the fruit was cleaner and wetter, or because I was using a different setting on the centrifuge.  (You can change the settings according to the nature of the fruit you are pressing.)  Anyway - after settling I should have some good bottle able, saleable, oil!